The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

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August 17, 2012

MSSU board OKs plan to evaluate all programs

JOPLIN, Mo. — Administrators at Missouri Southern State University will be reviewing and ranking the school’s programs to determine where resources should be allocated.

The plan, which they have termed “program prioritization,” was formally adopted Friday at the monthly meeting of the MSSU Board of Governors.

“I think what it amounts to is we all have a limited amount of resources,” said Pat Lipira, interim vice president for academic affairs. “We need to put our resources where we serve the most students and where our needs are. We need to look at ways to save money. I think that’s the whole thing.”

The yearlong effort will scrutinize the university’s academic and nonacademic services, and could end with the possibility of growing and enhancing some programs while reducing or eliminating others. Cuts in state funding — a $3 million reduction to MSSU over the past four years — and a decline in enrollment have led the school on this path to keep its budget balanced and properly distribute its resources, administrators said Friday.

The timeline for the plan begins this month, and is already under way with the identification of programs to be evaluated. A program is to be defined as “any activity or collection of activities of the institution that consumes resources (such as dollars, people, space, equipment or time),” according to the proposal approved Friday.

By that definition, an example of an academic program could be a minor in biology, and an example of a nonacademic program could be custodial services within the physical plant department, according to the proposal.

Reports on each program are to be prepared by December and are to be evaluated, analyzed and ranked by March 2013 using a set of criteria that has yet to be developed. Highly ranked programs would be candidates for increased investment by the university, while low-ranking programs could be subject to reduction, restructuring or elimination, according to the proposal.

The plan calls for feedback on the evaluations and rankings from the campus next spring, with final recommendations on the programs going before the Board of Governors in May 2013.

President Bruce Speck said during the meeting that although the initial discussion of program prioritization was sparked months ago by board member Richard Walter, the initiative is neither purely board-driven, nor driven by faculty and staff on campus.

“It’s not an either/or,” he sad. “We are working together as a team to ensure that we can do the best job for this campus.”

The proposal adopted Friday was prepared with prior feedback from university deans and department heads, and faculty, staff and student representatives.

In other business, Friday’s meeting marked the last for Nancy Perry, a board member from Carthage who was appointed in June 2007 by then-Gov. Matt Blunt. Her term expires at the end of the month.

The board, which should consist of eight members, is now down to six; in addition to Perry’s seat, the seat left vacant by David Jones, of Springfield, whose term expired last year, also has not yet been filled. Seats on the board, which carry a six-year term, are filled by appointments by the governor and are subject to state Senate approval.

Program blueprint

The model for “program prioritization” is taken from “Prioritizing Academic Programs and Services: Reallocating Resources to Achieve Strategic Balance,” a 2010 book by Robert C. Dickeson. Several copies of the book are available at MSSU’s Spiva Library.

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